Here’s why Everybody’s Talking about Jamie.
Jamie’s been on my radar for some time now, so I was delighted to finally get along and see for myself what Everybody’s Been Talking About! I took my daughter as I thought it might be rather up her street (she is completely consumed with watching Netflix’s ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’) – and I was right…
‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is a thoroughly joyous, ballsy, colourful musical, based on BBC3’s ‘Jamie: Drag Queen At 16’ – a 2011 documentary which followed a determined Sheffield lad on his journey to become a drag queen, defying and overcoming the prejudices and obstacles he faced along the way.
With this wonderful stage production, director Jonathan Butterell breathes vibrant new life into Jamie’s inspirational story.
The show opens with a punchy classroom scene which embodies the trials and tribulations of teenage life – as well as the heart-breaking lack of hope for less privileged youngsters in today’s harsh climate…We watch Jamie’s classmates putting aspirations aside in the face of tough realities.
Raw teen energy makes for a thrilling edginess, and personalities shine through with ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’ – a catchy number which introduces the cast of young characters and their evolving stories. Jamie’s studious best mate Pritti (Sabrina Sandhu) wears a hijab and specs. Dean (Luke Baker) is the perennial class bully, and Hayley Tamaddon plays their long-suffering teacher, Miss Hedge.
The star of this show is, of course, Jamie New, played with remarkable sensitivity and camp irreverence by Layton Williams, who began his career – at the tender age of 12 – playing Billy in the West End production of Billy Elliot. Williams’s brilliance finds its reflection in a genuinely touching performance from Rebecca McKinnis as Margaret, who as Jamie’s single mother makes enormous sacrifices for her beloved son. I was really moved by her beautifully heartfelt rendition of ‘He’s My Boy’.
Writer and lyricist Tom MacRae makes an excellent partnership with ‘The Feeling’ front-man Dan Gillespie Sells, whose music works magic with tantalizing pop songs which hit all the right emotional chords. Anna Fleischle’s clever set deftly transforms from a classroom into Jamie’s domestic world – and Luke Hall’s video design adds a splash of razzmatazz.
A slick, fast-paced – if occasionally a little one-dimensional – narrative sweeps us along on a quest for identity and self-acceptance, as Jamie searches for a way to fulfil his destiny. He’s got diva dreams, and he’s making plans to wear a dress to the school Prom – a prospect that’s making the local community distinctly nervous! Jamie’s dad is conspicuously absent and unenthusiastic, but Mum is absolutely 1000% on board. On the way, we meet loveable Hugo, fabulously played by Shane Ritchie of EastEnders fame. Hugo runs the local ‘frock-shop’ – an establishment which specialises for the drag community.
Love and support – and many touching moments – propel our hero forward, to his night…as undisputed Queen of the Prom…..
This is an enormously uplifting, inspiring celebration of individuality, diversity, and triumph over adversity. It’stightly choreographed, spirited, and passionate, brimming with the frenetic energy of a brilliant teenage cast.
Why is Everybody Talking About Jamie?
It’s an evening full of fun – and it pulls on your heart strings nicely, too.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie –
Soho, London W1D 7EZ
Until January 25 2020
For an alternative ‘Educational’ Musical you might like to check out our review of Matilda The Musical, also showing in the West End, London.
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